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Friday, September 7, 2012
Final Fantasy IX - My Story
Repurchase Date: 2008
Repurchase Price: $10 (estimated)
By the time Final Fantasy IX rolled around, I knew the drill. It was going to be amazing ('ner-riffic being the term my friends and I had coined in order to explain how these games made us feel in our 'down there' zone). Of course, hindsight as it is, this game generated the polarized opinions that it either marks the beginning of the series' downfall or it is the last true Final Fantasy game. For many reasons it seems to teeter that gap, and while I don't seem to find myself thinking either of those statements are wholly accurate, I to tend to favor the later. This probably being, in my opinion, the most under appreciated game in the bunch that I can think of. Sure, Zidane wasn't my choice protagonist at first, but I ended up with a soft spot for the little sky pirate monkey boy... thing. The character designs in general felt like HD re-builds of the cartridge era sprites which I found endearing.
I was straddling my Junior and Senior year of high school while playing this game (although I played games what felt like a lot at the time, it seems like my hour count must have been somewhat limited in retrospect as a game like this could take me 4-6 months to complete.) and as such, this game relates back to some serious milestones in my adolescence. I remember playing this game in a daze as I had begun seriously dating what was, at the time, my most stable girlfriend. This of course was an important landmark because up until that point I had been what is known as a serial dater (or as my sister lovingly referred to it "a manwhore"). I remember talking Final Fantasy IX strategy with my co-workers at my first job at an environmental lab (it was really weird, I worked the second shift and we set off chemical reactions and threw things off the roof... neither of which were work related of course)... and I remember spending all-nighters with my friends playing this game deep into the recesses in the morning before passing out in separate rooms and hurling insults at each other just for the fun of it.
This game, having encompassed so many milestones in my journey towards what I then thought was adulthood, was a natural choice to reacquire years later when I had grown nostalgic. So in one fell swoop I picked up this one along with the previously mentioned Chrono Cross back in 2008. In fact, I was re-playing this game when I began dating the woman that would later become my wife, so this game is intrinsically linked with a number of huge milestones in my life.
On top of all that, I find the game itself just to be absolutely delightful. It is a true fairytale from beginning to end and decided to take a chance in exchanging the series' new standard of brooding heroes unraveling a complicated and world threatening plot while simultaneously accomplishing self realization (don't get me wrong, I loved that stuff as well) for a lighter and more jubilant fare (that still had a world threatening plot for good measure). It was a bold move that kept the series fresh in my eyes without compromising the elements that made it great (as proven later in the series' history, some bold moves don't quite pay off.)
I remember upon beating the game (both times actually) thinking to myself "That's it? That was so simple!" Not in a bad way though, just in a way that I hadn't expected. Unlike most Final Fantasy games, its plot was so straight forward and easily followed (at least for me) that I understood it on the first playthrough (which definitely could not be said for a good number of entries, prior to and after this one). It felt like a return to the series' humble beginnings in a number of ways.
Lastly, this sticks out to me as one of the last major experiences I had with the PS1 before moving towards the PS2 era. Of course I paid no heed to it at the time, but a huge chapter in my gaming biography was coming to a close.